The Seven Basics of Hair Styling

Before we launch into fabulous hair crafting in 30 Days, 30 Ways, there are seven basic tricks you need to know that will make the hairstyles come together easier and last through the end of the day.  If you follow these suggestions, your new, seemingly-complex-but-actually-simple hairstyles will be absolutely self-sustaining once you leave the house, and neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall bring it down!  Seriously. 😉

1. Wet vs. Dry  The  first thing you have to come to terms with is the necessity of wet hair.   Many of the styles require that you put them together while the hair is moderately wet (read: pliable).  Furthermore, once it dries in the styled position, it will stay all day.  Whenever someone comes to me saying that A.) “I just can’t get my hair into an upstyle” or B.) “It just keeps falling out, my first question is always, “Was your hair wet when you styled?”  It’s really that important… number one on the list.

2. Brushes vs. Combs  Always style with a brush and a comb.  The brush will help you control large amounts of hair, while the comb will let you to determine whether you want a clean or [intentionally] messy style and will be your tool for straight parting and smooth braiding. 

3. Product and Supplies  It will take time and a little bit of a [worthwhile] investment to discover which products work best for your hair when it is down, whether curly or straight.  But when your hair is up, you simply must use gel.  Just a ‘no frills’ gel will do.  (I use Suave Medium Hold; probably the cheapest ‘over the counter’ product).  If you’re hair will all be up, then run a quarter size amount of gel through your entire wet head before you start.  If you are only doing a partial upstyle, just apply the appropriate amount of gel to the wet hair that will be designed, then blowdry and style the rest at usual.  If your finished look has flippies or sprigs strategically pulled out, make sure to go back over them with a tiny bit of gel to maintain your piecy look throughout the day, otherwise they will turn frizzy.  Also, you will need to keep clear elastics and bobby pins on hand.  The clear elastics and bobby pins (hereafter referred to as bobbies) work in different ways to give you hidden anchoring, while not distracting from the actual style. 

4. Crossed Bobbies  People often tell me that they can’t get bobbies to hold the weight of their hair, so let me tell you the secret!   Bobby pins have a straight side and a ridged side.  Take the hair that you want to control and confine it with the bobbies positioned in an X, crossed at the ridge.  Believe me, my three daughters’ have the thickest hair, and this trick makes just about anything possible.  Let me show you what I mean:

holding back bangs    supporting hairs at the nape    anchoring partial pieces     just for fun

5. Placement  There are tiny tweaks in the placement of ponytails, pigtails and buns that completely change the overall look.  Basically, you can anchor them high (at the crown), in the middle (at the occipital bone) or low (at the nape).

 pony: high,  pony: low,  braided bun: high,  bun: middle,  side buns: middle,  flippy buns: low

And while we’re on the subject, there are two ways to place a partial ponytail.  One way makes you look eight years old, and the other allows you to look your adult age, whatever that is.  And I see it done wrong all the time, so let’s set the record straight, okay? 

Pulled to the center {wrong}        Pulled to the back {right}          See the difference?           

6. Partings  First, always make your partings straight.  Even though you can’t see them, everyone else can.  It’s just a matter of doing things right, and as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing tackier than a crooked, sloppy part.   Second, start with your handy comb on wet hair combed in the direction that you intend to part.  Comb through the hair, using the tip of the comb to make your straight line firmly against your scalp.  While still holding one side of your hair tightly with the comb, use your fingers to separate the loose hair away.  Then comb your other side away, keeping the part clean.  This is effective whether parting out bangs, parting for a partial upstyle, blind parting the back for pigtails or angle parting across the head for more complex styles.


Once you master making a clean part, you can begin to use creative partings to add interest to your styles.  Just part the hair the same way, using the tip to guide the hair and your fingers to separate the two sides.  This zig-zag parting can be styled as is where the visual scalp makes for a dynamic effect, or you can comb your anchor to the back (as shown above in placement) to create a reverse basketweave affect.


 7. Hairspray  After putting in the time to craft a fabulous style, always polish it with hairspray to ensure that you will still look your fabulous best at the end of the day!  Again, I use budget-friendly Suave and it gets the job done just as well as Sebastian, Aveda or Bumble&Bumble spray.  (Clearly, they are not sponsoring this blog.)  There are certain products that I do believe the professionals do better (Bumble Curl Conscious, Moroccan Oil Deep Conditioner, Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Shine Serum), but gel and hairspray are not among them.

As we draw close to our 30 Days, 30 Ways makeover, I encourage you to stock your bathroom with the simple essentials (brush, comb, gel, hairspray, clear elastics and bobbies) and begin familiarizing yourself with the core techniques (crossed bobbies, partings and placement) upon which we will build our styles.   And if you have friends who would enjoy learning some new skills for themselves or their daughters, it’s not too late to share this blog link so that they can join in the fun!


About ~Sarah

Artist. Musician. Writer. Mother. Daughter. Friend. Christian. Existentialist. Pilgrim.

Posted on December 23, 2011, in beauty, collections of seven, hair tutorials, how to... and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. wow thanks! this is really good advice

  2. Great tips! Thanks for this….

  3. If your hair is naturally curly what do you do as far as your hair being whet when you style it. Because when you see these hairstyles most of them have straight hair so its hard when you get your hair wet and its curly. what would your advice be?

    • Because your hair will need more control (not unlike very fine hair that tends to get wispy), I would style it when it’s pretty wet and with an anti-frizz, high hold product, being careful not to damage your more vulnerable locks. Using a comb and anchoring often, you should be able to pull some of that natural curl out as you style. But don’t forget that your curls are surely part of your unique look, so instead of fighting them, go with the flow! Many of the creations I will be featuring in 30 Days, 30 Ways require additional steps to give the illusion of texture, volume and curls on the straight hair client. Having an underlying movement in your hair will add femininity and an overall visual complexity to any style since the rest of us curl and pin and hairspray the snot out of our hair to achieve it. 😉 So play around with the very wet styling and product to see how much of the curl pattern you can pull out, and I will work on finding a curly-haired model to replicate some of the coming styles on. Here, here and here are some quick examples that demonstrate how an easy updo can translate with curls, but I will do my homework and incorporate more specific instructions into the January tutorials. Thank you for bringing up a very relevant question!

  1. Pingback: Day Two: Half Up With Crossed Bobbies {30 Days, 30 Ways} « the seeded thistle.

  2. Pingback: Day Four: Twisted Bangs {30 Days, 30 Ways} « the seeded thistle.

  3. Pingback: Day Five: The Simple Braid {30 Days, 30 Ways} « the seeded thistle.

  4. Pingback: Day Six: The Wrapped Pony {30 Days, 30 Ways} « the seeded thistle.

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  8. Pingback: Day Eleven: Flippy Bun {30 Days, 30 Ways} « the seeded thistle.

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  12. Pingback: Day 16: Two Flippy Buns {30 Days, 30 Ways} « the seeded thistle.

  13. Pingback: Day 20: Twisty Rows {30 Days, 30 Ways} « the seeded thistle.

  14. Pingback: Day 21: Two French Braids {30 Days, 30 Ways} « the seeded thistle.

  15. Pingback: Day 23: The Braided Bun {30 Days, 30 Ways} « the seeded thistle.

  16. Pingback: Day 26: Partial Knotties {30 Days, 30 Ways} « the seeded thistle.

  17. Pingback: Day 27: Another Combination Updo {30 Days, 30 Ways} « the seeded thistle.

  18. Pingback: Day 28: Funky Knotties {30 Days, 30 Ways} « the seeded thistle.

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